30.11.2013 - 02.12.2013
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2 hours after leaving Savannah, we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. We checked into our hotel then checked out a local taco joint located in a converted garage / service station conveniently called Fuel. Influenced by the Caribbean and showcasing local produce, the menu and beers were a hit with us!
We were up early the next day to catch a free bus into the heart of town. As with Savannah, the town is huge but the Historic District makes up only a small but busy section. As we later found out, most of the homes within the Historic District would sell for millions of dollars and strict heritage rules apply to any renovation (i.e no external colours that would have looked out of place at the time the house was built). We decided that on this crisp Autumn day we would tour the Historic District in a horse drawn carriage and whilst walking to the departure point, we were inundated with carriage ride vendors. Palmetto Carriage Works are the oldest carriage tour company in the city and once onboard our carriage, we stopped at the 'Carriage Lottery'. The Historic District covers 30 blocks and over 300 years of history so to evenly regulate carriage traffic throughout the city, 1 of 3 routes is randomly selected for you by the city. Only 20 carriages can be out on the roads at any one time and the lottery helps add some excitement as you can't plan ahead. We were assigned zone 3 which is the largest zone and away we went.
Charleston is one of 3 'walled cities' remaining in North America and it wasn't until this tour that we were aware of this. The other two are St Augustine, Florida and Quebec City, Canada. Charleston is also a city of churches and we saw, and heard, plenty on this tour. Also as with Savannah, Charleston has plenty of haunted areas, one of which is the Old City Jail which was in use between 1802 and 1939. When I was researching the years the jail was in use (it is now a project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Millennium Council but was previously used as a College for the Building Arts), I came across this quote on 'Bulldogtours.com': "**This is quite possibly the scariest place you will ever go. The experience is NOT recommended for small children or men that cry easily.**" Hahahahaha!
We found a small place to eat after our tour and it was here that I decided to try a Southern traditional favourite, fried green tomatoes, for the first time. They were wonderful and if you would like to try a healthy version for yourself, here is a fantastic recipe: 'Baked' Fried Green Tomatoes. To walk off our lunch we headed down to the Waterfront park and the first thing Carys saw was an ice cream shop. She just wanted to eat the huge ice cream but we distracted her by spotting the focal point of the park, a pineapple fountain!
From the park, Patriot's Point can be seen which is home to the USS Yorktown carrier, amongst other exhibits. We didn't have time on this trip to visit but I believe it is a whole day and rewarding experience. At least it was a great view and there was also plenty of sailing activity out on the water.
We had plenty of fun in the park and walked back via 'Rainbow Row', a line of pretty pastel coloured houses. We also wandered around some night markets before finding a great brewery restaurant with a glass elevator to allow great views of the brewing vats. It was here that we tried another Southern 'delight' that we'd heard about on the tour, Hush Puppies. I think ours had bacon in them and if they didn't, they should have!
Walking back to our car, we ventured past a park with a huge Christmas tree. That evening, the Christmas lights had been lit for the first time this season and it was a great prelude to our next destination, the annual Festival of Lights. The email link will take you to a 'drive through' video of all the lights and it was awesome to see the detail that went into some of the displays. There was no limit to the number of times you could drive around the park but the best part of the evening was parking the car and walking around the various paths to the Christmas village. For $2 you could purchase 3 marshmallows on a stick to roast over an open fire. I thought that was a great idea until I saw the size of the marshmallows but by then it was too late. We each had a marshmallow stick when one between the three of us would have more than enough. They were tasty though! The village also included artwork by local school children, a huge sand sculpture, games and of course, Santa himself!
A late night but a fun night and something that we won't see for a long while. Thank you Charleston!
On the final day of our road trip, we did a little more walking and exploring before finishing off at the South Carolina Aquarium. A 4D short movie of the Polar Express was another fantastic prelude to the white Christmas trip we had planned. We had a great time on our little trip away for Thanksgiving and although we didn't celebrate in a home with family or friends, we were thankful to celebrate being together in this wonderful country.